The Day I Almost Went Over Niagara Falls

Niagara

Dear (un-named deity), how did I ever survive childhood, to become the Grumpy Old Dude that I am today??

Early in the 1960s, my Father took our family to Niagara Falls. We rented a little cabin in the village of Chippewa, 5 miles above the Falls. I don’t know what it’s like there now, but back then you could stroll along the Canadian-side bank of the river, like a continuous park. Having been told of a picturesque picnic area, one day we set off downstream to take advantage of it.

If I was 6 or 7 years old, my brother was 3 or 4, and my Mother was busy holding or carrying him. Dad was laden with a box, full of food and drink, and I wandered along behind them. About halfway to our destination, there was a gnarly tree, growing out of the bank at a 45 degree angle, out over the river.

Someone had tied a rope to a branch, and a group of 13/14 year old boys were using it to swing out, and splash into the river. One lad would climb/walk up into the tree, and flick the end of the rope up to his compatriots. One by one they’d launch themselves, swim back, and one of them would take the spot in the tree.

I had a tree at home. It had a rope in it. I liked trees. I liked ropes. I liked swinging. 😯 When all had plunged into the river, I asked the kid in the tree if I could swing from the rope. Sure! And he flicked the end up to me.

I launched myself off the 8-foot high bank, and enjoyed a magnificent swing. I didn’t learn to swim until I was 14. When I reached the extent of the outward swing, I realized that I couldn’t let go – a little late! Holding on for dear life I swung back in, but the arc of the inward swing is never as long as the outward one, and it was nowhere near long enough to put me back up on that bank.

Actually, the point nearest the bank would have been the best time to let go. I’d have smacked into the clay and rock, and would have been able to scramble up the bank, dry and safe, but my Grade 1 brain was busy trying to figure out the physics of this whole thing.

Back out I swung. These guys wanted their rope back, and were shouting, “Let go! Let go!” Once more I swung back inward, this time again the arc becoming much shorter. As I reached the inner apogee – right or wrong – I let go…. and splashed down three feet from dry land.

I was used to a well-mannered Lake Huron, where you could walk out 100 feet before it got chest deep. In this river, three feet out put me in chin-deep water. Still, I scrambled out, and rejoined my family. If either parent noticed that my shoes, shorts and tee-shirt were drenched, neither of them mentioned it. Only later did I realize that I could have climbed up the rope, and down the tree, safely. At the time, I was a bit too busy to think of that. What do you think?? A young fool became an old one??  😕

Flash Fiction #169

Piedmont

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

IT’S RAINING, IT’S POURING

Before I moved here from California, Piedmont was just the name of a city.  Here in North Carolina it’s a little different.  The word still means the same thing – foot of a mountain.

In California, the only thing that Piedmont had to worry about was if the San Andreas Fault opened up, and most of the state took a dip in the Pacific.  Here, you guys have to evacuate to the piedmont to get away from big storms.  When do you figure Hurricane Florence will die off?

Usually, if my drinks are watered down, it was done by the bartender.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word Flash Fiction.

Friday Fictioneers

 

’18 A To Z Challenge – Flood

Challenge '18

Letter F

Unless the Mayan calendar apocalypse comes to pass, my little home town, situated where a river meets a lake, will never have a flood.

Lake Huron’s levels are closely monitored and controlled by the St. Lawrence Seaway commission, the geography is stable, and it would take something larger than a falling Chinese Space Station, to cause a tsunami.  The land quickly rises, so that most of the town is 50 feet above water level.  My birthplace house is more like 70’.

The closest thing to a flood is the spring ice-breakup in the river.  It starts 3 miles upstream, below the little rapids.  The thin ice breaks, pushing downstream against the thicker and thicker layers, partly impeding the water flow, until finally it lets loose.  Suddenly, thousands of tons of ice blocks, 2 – 3 – 4-feet thick, and as big as buses, thunder down the canyon, scour the harbor docks, and spew into the lake.

I’m told that it is an awe-inspiring sight and sound, but silly little things like education and employment have never allowed me to be present.  In late fall, the docks are cleared.  Ladders for swimmers and boaters are unbolted.  Fishing boats are winched onto the concrete, and placed well up on the banks.  After the cascade, ice that’s in the way is bulldozed back into the water.  Blocks that aren’t, are still melting beside the little park, well into June.

***

When we made our pitifully few visits to the lower United States for vacations, we were usually fixed on getting to our destination as soon as possible, and took the Interstates.  Humming along steadily for hours, at 110Kmh/70MPH, the extra distances were made up for by not having to follow some farm tractor, or stop at every stop sign and red light in every goober little town.

The time we took our On Top Of The World trip, we decided that we had the time, not to go 100 miles from Buffalo to Erie, PA, to get on I-79.  Instead, we took State highways down and back, from Buffalo, through Pennsylvania.  The entertainment and education justified the decision.

We passed through Du Bois, PA, named after W.E.B. Du Bois, a 19th century Negro civil-rights pioneer.  Both names are pronounced ‘due–boys’, rather than the French ‘due-bwah.’

We found a small PA town that clings to a mountainside so steep, that the northbound lane of the highway/main street, is 8 feet above the southbound lane, with a guardrail to prevent cars from falling in.  The industry in another Pennsylvania town was a Weyerhaeuser paper mill.  We could smell that one 3 miles before we got there, and 3 miles after we left, and rolled the windows down to clear the stench.

Rolling into one town we were faced with 6 or 7 truck-docks, at the back of a large plant.  Each dock seemed to be a different color, red, green, orange blue, purple.  When we got closer we found that it was a Pittsburgh Glass plant, and what we’d seen was hundreds of pounds of broken bottles and other glass, all sorted by color, which had fallen below the docks as it was being brought back in for melting and reuse.

As we were coming back north, we reached a spot where a secondary road met the highway at a T-intersection to our left.  Suddenly, in the middle of Nowhere PA, miles from any town or city, I was faced with the first roundabout I’d ever seen.

Like the 1942 song That Old Black Magic says, “Down and down I go.  Round and round I go.”  Round and round the roundabout I went, missing the northbound, uphill highway.  Instead, I continued ‘round, and exited onto the westbound, downhill road.

Six miles this steep, two-lane blacktop weaved its way down and down, with not a sign of a turnoff, another side-road, or even a farmer’s lane, to turn into to turn around.

Finally, after losing hundreds of feet of altitude, we reached a sign that said, “Welcome To Johnstown PA”.  Johnstown??  Like in the Johnstown flood??  Sure enough, there was the Conemaugh River, before we started our long trek back uphill.

In 1851 a dam was built 14 miles upstream, to provide water for area industries, and for a barge-canal system.  Later, trains replaced barges, so the dam was sold to a railway company.  The Railway Company wasn’t in the ‘dam’ business, so they didn’t maintain it, even removing and selling piping that could lower water levels behind it.

In 1889, a ‘Century Storm’ dumped 12 inches of rain in the mountain valley in two days.  The dam finally failed, and the flood roared through several small towns and Johnstown.  It caused $17 million 1889 dollars worth of damage, almost $500 million today, and killed over 2200 people.

I quietly drove back up to the highway and home, to compose this happy tale for you.  Stop back again later, when we visit The Rockies and talk about avalanches.  😯

Flash Fiction #156

Carnivorous

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria

DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE

Hey! Where did everybody go??

As usual, Gary the geek was being so boring that even the grass fell asleep. That’s the reason he came in for more beer.  Gary was holding forth at great length about carnivorous plants, like the Venus flytrap, and the pitcher plant.  They grow in poor soil, so they trap and absorb bugs to obtain extra protein and other nutrients.

He wondered if the gang had gone around to the pool?? It was funny that they just disappeared like that.  Well, he’d sit here and finish his beer under this big tree, and join them later.

***

Click on the title, if you’d like to hear the Andrews Sisters from 1942, sing a ‘missing men in the Army’ love song. Then go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Smitty’s Loose Change

Smitty's Loose Change

No more ‘Shotgun’, no more ‘Seinfeld’, no more ‘Triviana’ (at least for a while), I have a new title to list my stream of confused consciousness posts.  This one will be:

#1

***

Number 600

This is my 600th post!  No big deal, I just wanted you to know that I’ve (almost) got over my paranoia about where the next blog-theme is coming from.

***

I finally seem to have got both my mind and my publishing schedule straightened out – three posts a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In January, despite it having 31 days, I only published 11 times.  In February, despite it having only 29 days, I assaulted your optic nerves with 13 posts.

***

On March 26/16, I rolled out of bed at the crack of noon, stumbled downstairs wearing socks, YSL briefs and my usual befuddled look. As I was feeding and watering various animals, four-legged and two- legged, there was a discreet knock on my door.  Expecting the neighbor lady, I cracked it open and remained behind it.

I was confronted by a young female who was working with a group to organise a ‘Polar Bear Plunge’. I’m 72, and have to wear socks to bed to keep warm.  They’re going door to door for an April event??  Wha’ happen to a New Years bath?

***

I am on a National Do-Not-Call List, yet still get numerous phone calls from Pakistan where they can’t read Canadian law. Recently, the son added another way to fu….foul them up.

“Hello, could I please speak to the owner of the house?”
“No!  I’m sorry, he’s in jail right now.”
“Uh…. then who is speaking please?”
“I’m a bail-bondsman, doing an assessment so that we can repossess this place.”
…. Click!

***

When we bought this house, 15 years ago, it was owned as a place-holder, by a young newly-wed couple. They were having a house built in the next city, where he hoped to get on with the fire department.  Three years later, as the son was driving to work over there, he hit a patch of black ice, and got tee-boned.  His first words when he called to tell us, were, “The airbags work.”

A young fireman climbed into the back seat to support his neck (just in case) and also to provide emotional support. “Where ya from?” “Kitchener.” “Yeah, I lived in Kitchener for a while.” And the little light went on.  “Is your name Carl?  Is your wife’s name Cindy?  Did you used to live at xx  XXXX  Crescent?” Who are you, and how have you been reading my mail? “Yeah, we bought your house.  So, you made it into the Fire Department?  Thanks for coming out.”

***

I have to walk a block to pick up my mail at a community mailbox. We are getting to know Mr. Amazon really well – books, Keurig coffee pods, Puffs tissues with lotion, which don’t seem to be available in stores anymore.  Sometimes, with the mail, is a key to a larger, parcel box.  I remove the package and drop the key back in the mail slot.

I recently found a key, even though I wasn’t aware of anyone expecting anything. When I got home, I read the label, to know which co-conspirator to give it to, and found a sample pack of Similac baby food, addressed to Cindy.  Fifteen years we’ve been here.  She’s still havin’ kids, and giving out the same old, wrong address??!

***

I aided my computerless brother in getting tickets and lodging for The Brier, Canada’s big curling finale, in Ottawa. He took along his friend Norm, to split on gasoline and hotel expenses, thereby saving $625 over a nine-day stay.  When he called me with the details, he vowed that, if he ever goes again, he’ll do it solo, or find another partner.

I’ve written of Norm before. He’s a great believer in the ’24 hours in a day – 24 beers in a case’ credo.  My father said he’d never seen Norm without a beer in his hand – never drunk….but never sober.

One day, Norm insisted that they cross the river into Quebec, to get some cheap beer.  Beer in Ontario is $40.99/24case, or $1.71 each.  In Gatineau they put them 4 by 5 on a cardboard tray, stack three trays high, shrink-wrap 60 beers to a cube, and sell them for $61.  Add a bit of tax, and a 5 cent/can deposit that he’ll never get back, and each 55 pound lot cost him $73.00, or $1.21 each.

He bought 8 bundles, spending $584 to save $240 on 480 cans, or almost 500 pounds of beer, enough to last him a month or so.  They almost took the wheels off the hotel’s luggage cart when they moved it into their room.  Now the brother knows why he insisted on driving his new Ford F-150.

Rhyme Time

Rhyme

This guy has four daughters who all live at home.
One Friday night the doorbell rings. The guy
answers it and a kid standing there says ‘Hi, I’m
Freddy. I’m here to pick up Betty. We’re gonna go
eat spaghetti. Is she ready?’

The man, mildly amused calls down his daughter
and the two leave.

A few minutes later the doorbell rings again and
he answers. A kid standing there says ‘Hi, I’m
Jim. I’m here to see Kim. We’re gonna go for a
swim. Can I come in?’

The guy, now perplexed, says yes and the two take off.

A few minutes later the doorbell rings and again
the father answers. A kid standing there says
‘Hi, I’m Joe. I’m here to pick up Flo. We’re
gonna go to the show. Can she go?’

The man, now kind of annoyed, says yes and the two depart.

Sure enough, a few minutes later the door rings
and the father answers. A kid standing there
says ‘Hi, I’m Chuck..’

The father shot him.

***

A young fellow was about to be married and was
asking his grandfather about sex. He asked how
often you should have it. His grandfather told
him that when you first get married, you want
it all the time…and maybe do it several times a day.

Later on, sex tapers off and you have it once a
week or so. Then as you get older, you have sex
maybe once a month. When you get really old, you
are lucky to have it once a year…..maybe on
your anniversary.

The young fellow then asked his grandfather, “Well
how about you and Grandma now?” His grandfather
replied, “Oh, we just have oral sex now.”

“What’s oral sex?” the young fellow asked. “Well,”
Grandpa said, “She goes to bed in her bedroom, and
I go to bed in my bedroom. And she yells, ‘Fuck You!!!!!’
and I holler back, “Fuck You too.”

***

Gun control means using both hands!

***

A man is driving home late one afternoon, and he
is driving above the speed limit. He notices a
police car with its red lights on in his rear-view
mirror. He thinks “I can out-run this guy,” so he
floors it and the race is on.

The cars are racing down the highway – 60, 70,
80, 90 miles an hour. Finally, as his
speedometer passes 100, the guy figures ‘what
the hell'” and gives up.

He pulls over to the curb. The police officer
gets out of his cruiser and approaches the car.
He leans down and says, “Listen mister, I’ve
had a really lousy day, and I just want to go
home. Give me a good excuse and I will let you
go!”

The man thinks for a moment and says…”Three
weeks ago my wife ran off with a police officer.
When I saw your cruiser in my rear view mirror, I
thought you were that officer and you were trying
to give her back.”

***

 

Flash Fiction #82

Sandbox

PHOTO PROMPT – © ceayr

SANDBOX

We put the gate up because people steal sand. We came home one day, to truck tracks across the lawn, and a hole in our beach.

The Sahara has lots of sand, but it’s the wrong kind, and it’s too far to ship. Sand to make glass needs lots of silica.  Saudi Arabia imports it.

The sand people steal is to make concrete for construction. We even had a small ship in our cove with a suction hose.  What used to be a shallow bottom is now deep and stony.  We called the Coast Guard, but they didn’t catch them.

***

While theft of sand may seem strange, it’s actually quite common, especially along California’s coast, and on the Hawaiian Islands. The pressure of providing for more and more development is fierce.  Dump-trucks with a bulldozer in tow remove tons of sand from popular beaches.  Sucker ships destroy the bottoms of small bays.  Subsequent erosion threatens the concrete supports of decks of beachfront homes.  Play in the sandbox is getting rough.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.